Julie Brill: On Her Mission to Protect People in the Digital Era

Top 10 Most Empowering Businesswomen to Watch Out For in 2024

From Commissioner to Corporate Vice President: A Journey of Impact and Advocacy

Julie Brill, Microsoft’s Chief Privacy Officer & Corporate Vice President for Privacy, Safety, and Regulatory Affairs, is a visionary leader who has helped shape modern perspectives on regulation and innovation during decades of digital evolution. She has spearheaded Microsoft’s global efforts to protect privacy and safety and is one of the key driving forces behind Microsoft’s approach to regulatory compliance and policy in a world of ever-expanding legislative proposals and regulatory obligations.

Before joining Microsoft, Julie served for six years as a Commissioner of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), where she focused on privacy, consumer protection, fair advertising practices, and maintaining competition, particularly in healthcare and technology. Her distinguished career also includes roles as a partner leading the privacy and cybersecurity practice at the global law firm Hogan Lovells, Senior Deputy Attorney General for North Carolina, and Assistant Attorney General for Vermont.

Julie’s expertise and impact have earned her accolades as a Top Data Privacy Influencer, winner of the International Association of Privacy Professionals Privacy Leadership Award, and various other recognitions. Outside of Microsoft, she is an active leader contributing to civil society by serving as a board member and governor of global organizations, leveraging her commitment to public service and social good.

Charting an Unconventional Path

After her studies at Princeton and NYU School of Law, Julie landed a job as a law clerk for a federal judge in Vermont, where she found a passion for law enforcement and fell in love with the landscape and people in New England. She began her leadership journey her as well, leading consumer protection and competition policy and enforcement for the State of Vermont. Her work in Vermont, and later in North Carolina, also involved deep collaboration with others across the country in law enforcement and civil society to address issues like mortgage fraud, pharmaceutical pricing, tobacco marketing, and financial scams that were unfair and harming people. When she became an FTC Commissioner, Julie drew upon her experiences in the states to create a platform to demystify the agency’s mandate and foster collaboration between the private sector, civil society, and other government agency stakeholders. “Early on, I learned the importance of building bridges and fostering understanding of what the FTC was trying to accomplish,” Julie remarks. “These experiences have deeply influenced my approach to leadership, guiding me to seek opportunities for impact and connection.”

Julie emphasizes the profound impact her role as an FTC Commissioner had on her leadership perspective. “For me, serving as a Commissioner at the FTC was a defining experience,” she reflects. “Being confirmed by the Senate and having the privilege to serve for those six years offered me the incredible opportunity to have an even greater impact and allowed me to drive real positive change. The ability to help people on a national and global scale was something I found really inspiring.”

At Microsoft, Julie found a new opportunity for impactful leadership and for her continued desire to drive programs that impact people in positive ways. “I saw the opportunity to continue to advocate for new approaches to protect individuals,” she states. “With more than a billion people using Microsoft products, the opportunity I have to drive impact at scale is unique.”

As a result of the changing global regulatory landscape, Julie has experienced significant growth in her role and teams in the relatively short time she has been with Microsoft. Beginning with her initial position as the Chief Privacy Officer during the emergence of the European Union’s flagship privacy law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the tech industry has experienced a remarkable evolution in global laws and rules. As regulatory complexities have continued to grow, her responsibilities have expanded to encompass a diverse array of domains, including privacy, digital safety, regulatory governance, law enforcement, national security, telecom, corporate standards, and accessibility regulation.

In recounting her career path, Julie underscores that she has learned something from each role that has shaped her leadership style. “I’ve been privileged to be at the forefront of many groundbreaking issues,” Julie reflects. “Building solutions for privacy and digital safety and creating regulatory compliance frameworks in an increasingly complex regulatory environment has taught me invaluable lessons.”

Empowering the Next Generation: Defining Success, Following Your Curiosity, and Being Resilient

Julie believes success, regardless of level, hinges on making a positive impact, fostering resilience, and building bridges through collaboration and empathy. She emphasizes learning from setbacks and remaining open to failures, understanding that growth is a continual process. Her definition of success has evolved, shaped by experiences and a commitment to learning.

“Try new things. Find out what you love and what you don’t. That is the only way to find and pursue your passion.”

Julie emphasizes the importance of finding your strengths and passions. She says, “Try new things and see what you love and what you don’t. Pursue your passion. I found my passion in privacy, competition, and consumer protection, where I felt I could help people and make a difference. Be curious and explore new opportunities. For example, when Microsoft offered me a role, I had spent most of my career in government. The opportunity to work at a company like Microsoft would be an enormous pivot, but I was deeply curious. So, I took a leap of faith into a position that I love, which gives me the opportunity to learn so much. Sometimes things may not work out like that, and that’s okay. You can always learn and grow from change and try something new.”

To aspiring leaders, particularly female leaders, Julie advises, “Don’t hesitate to speak up, share your ideas, and be proud of your achievements. It’s important to showcase your talents while being open to learning from others. To solve big problems, you will need to be able to work collaboratively across disciplines and hear the perspective of others.”

Championing Women in Leadership

Reflecting on her career journey, Julie acknowledges the privilege she had working for the U.S. government. “In government roles, there seemed to be an early acceptance of women in leadership,” Julie recalls.

Julie’s experiences in Vermont and North Carolina underscore a commitment to gender equality in leadership positions. Witnessing the rise of female governors and state and federal Supreme Court justices inspired her and many of her female colleagues. “At one point at the Federal Trade Commission, there were four Commissioners, and we were all women,” Julie shares. “Our gender didn’t alter the agency’s efficiency or output. We weren’t “Female FTC Commissioners”; we were just FTC Commissioners who were working together to get the job done.”

Transitioning to Microsoft, Julie observed a concerted effort to prioritize diversity, including greater gender representation. “Microsoft’s commitment to fostering female leadership is evident,” Julie remarks. “I’ve witnessed significant progress in promoting gender diversity during my tenure here.”

Pursuing a Positive Impact

Today, Julie and her team are tackling some of the toughest challenges facing the tech industry. Their driving force? To ensure technology solutions do not just benefit a few but contribute to the well-being of individuals worldwide. “I try to keep our team focused on solving hard problems together,” Julie explains. “We focus on harnessing the diverse perspectives and disciplines within our team to address issues that are critical to the people we serve and to the world.”

Julie cites examples from her team’s work in areas such as lawful access and digital safety, highlighting the significance of their societal contributions. “We’re impacting the lives of children, women, and other vulnerable groups, including victims of horrendous crimes. We play a crucial role in helping global law enforcement solve crimes and support victims, while also protecting fundamental rights like privacy,” she adds. “It’s heartwarming to hear stories of how our efforts have contributed to protecting a child or stopping a global criminal fraud ring.”

Julie and her team focus not only on compliance or corporate success; their work is also about making a meaningful difference in society and safeguarding the well-being of individuals.

Focused on Unique Contributions and Empowering Others

Julie’s typical workday consists of a steady drumbeat of meetings beginning early and stretching late into the day. “Throughout the day, I’m deeply engaged with my teams, working on solutions, connecting with our leadership teams, and helping to unblock any challenges,” Julie explains. “Enabling my team to do their best work is a top priority.”

In addition to internal meetings with her own team, Julie dedicates significant time to engaging with peers and executives across the company. “It is critical that I spend time meeting with other leaders across the company to discuss insights and align our strategies,” she notes. “It’s crucial to ensure that our teams are moving in sync and adapting together to changes to our customers’ needs and to our environment.”

“It takes diverse perspectives to solve hard problems. Our team is focused on addressing issues that are critical to the people we serve and to the world.”

Pulling this together requires prioritization and focus. Julie has long been inspired by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s principle of leadership: “Do what you can uniquely do and empower your team to handle the rest.” To Julie, this means focusing on her distinctive strengths and responsibilities, while entrusting her team members to lead in their areas of expertise and empowering them to excel in their respective roles.

Finding Balance

Julie tries to bring balance to her busy life by prioritizing time for reflection and physical activity. “I do think it’s really important to try to strike your own balance, and that will look different for everyone,” she reflects.

A lover of the outdoors, Julie finds solace and rejuvenation in nature. She makes time for activities like hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, depending on the season. “I get energy from sunshine, cool breezes, and mountain tops,” Julie shares. “I try to seize those moments whenever I can, whether it’s a quick walk during the day or a longer outdoor adventure in the mountains or by the seashore.”

Charting a Course for the Future

Julie will continue to be driven by protecting people and focusing on the complex issues brought about by the rapid advancement in technology and new global laws. She sees her position as an opportunity to make a meaningful difference, not only for companies but also for individuals facing formidable challenges. “I am excited to continue my current work because I believe it offers a remarkable opportunity to make a difference. In this role, I have the chance to help shape the online world to be safer for all of us. I help Microsoft support its customers as they drive success, and I help Microsoft support individuals by protecting their rights.”

Julie feels that her impact at Microsoft is greater today than it has ever been. With a global reach and a commitment to societal improvement from every layer of the company, she aims to continue driving positive change and leveraging her leadership role to help Microsoft usher in the age of Artificial Intelligence in safe, responsible, and privacy-protective ways. As Julie puts it: “I believe the work that my teams and I drive is critically important and will contribute to societal improvement.”


As one of the foremost experts in data protection, safety, privacy, and regulatory governance, Julie Brill has served as an inspiration to many in her field and beyond. Her leadership is marked by a desire to solve hard problems and a commitment to driving impact by using her unique voice and learning alongside others. From her groundbreaking tenure as Commissioner at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to her pivotal role as Chief Privacy Officer and head of Privacy, Safety and Regulatory Affairs at Microsoft, Julie has continually championed protecting individual rights, helping others thrive, developing systems that help others succeed, and instilling trust.

“Don’t be afraid to pivot. Sometimes things just don’t work out, but be curious and take the opportunity to learn from change.”

Her dedication to fostering collaboration, advocating for diversity, and driving impactful change has not only shaped Microsoft’s approach to regulatory governance and compliance, but has also left a mark on approaches to privacy and safety within the global technology landscape. Through her leadership and advocacy, Julie has not only influenced some of the most impactful organizations in the world but has also paved the way for a more equitable and safe digital future for all.